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Top 5 pieces of classical music

Recently I took the time to sit down and think of my favourite pieces of music. It was almost too hard to think of a top 5 across all genres so I just started with classical.

It was a beautiful way to spend an hour, thinking of all the stunning melodies that have been created, remembering when I first heard them and taking the time to really listen to some of them.

I hope you like my selection and that you get a chance to hear them if they’re not familiar to you.


Satie: Gymnopedie No. 1

I spend a lot of my day writing and find piano music the best to work to.  This has been a long time favourite. The spaces in the music are as important as the notes as they lull and soothe. It’s just one of the most melancholy yet peaceful pieces of music I’ve ever heard and it has the ability to make me feel as if my heart is either aching or wonderfully content.

Antonan Dvora¡k: Rusulka’s Song to the moon (“Mesa­cku na nebi hlubokem”) from ‘Rusalka’

The glamorous yet also girl-next-door Anna Netrebko’s version of this is a delight (Opera Arias: Deutsche Grammophon). I learnt this aria as a young soprano while studying at The Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide and it began a love affair with all things Dvora¡k.

Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody

Certainly not a piece of classical music but a classic all the same! Written by Jean Schwartz, with lyrics by Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young, it was published in 1918.

Probably the best-known recordings were by Al Jolson (who introduced it), Sammy Davis, Jr. (who frequently sang it in his live shows), and Judy Garland. It was also a hit for Jerry Lewis in the 1950s and Aretha Franklin also recorded a lesser-known version of this song, which reached #37 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Judy Garland’s version does it for me every time. She may not have been the most technical of singers but she was easily one of the most passionate. To hear her over the top vibrato as she roars out the lines “A million baby kisses I’ll deliver, if you will only play that Swanee River. Rock-a-bye your rock-a-bye baby with a Dixie melody” gives me shivers every time I hear it.

Ivor Novello: I Can Give You The Starlight

A lovely piece of light classical music from the musical ‘The Dancing Years’. My 80 year old singing teacher introduced me to this pretty song when I was 14 and it captured my romantic, teenage heart!

Nigel Westlake: Shimmering Light

Last year, Nigel compiled this album of his film music. It’s a collection of pieces that he composed for 3D Imax, TV, cinema and concert hall but it also signalled Nigel’s return to music one year after the tragic loss of his son, with part proceeds of the sale of the album going toward the Smugglers of Light Foundation. I didn’t know any of this until I’d already fallen in love with every track on this album, but after reading the liner notes, I understood even more why each piece evoked feelings of love, warmth, fragility and tenderness. Particular favourites are White Birds Fly Over The Valley Of The Somme from the orchestral suite ‘The Glass Soldier’for its ability to so accurately paint a picture of a war landscape. Lighter, brighter yet just as evocative are the pieces from the movies ‘Miss Potter’ and ‘Babe: Pig in the City’ and the two pieces from Imax motion picture ‘Antarctica’, Threnody and Beneath The Midnight Sun; they are so chillingly atmospheric. (ABC Classics 476 3658)

What are your all time Top 5 pieces of music? (and they don’t have to be classical either!)

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